A new Scientific
American article highlights the android creations of Hiroshi
Ishiguro of the Osaka University Intelligent Robotics
Lab. His most life-like android, Repliee
Q2, a robotic duplicate of human Ayako Fujii, has been in the news a
lot this year. But Hiroshi has also created a number of other robots. He
was inspired by Star Trek's Mr. Data and sees the development of
androids as a path to understanding humans. He believes Repliee is
life-like enough to overcome the negative emotional reactions known as
valley". His next project is to build an even more life-like android
duplicate of himself.
Good looks alone won't keep you out of the Uncanny Valley; movement is
equally (if not more) important. Interacting with an android that didn't
move enough would be unsettling. I've had a couple of somewhat mentally
unbalanced friends over the years, and one trait they had in common was
sitting abnormally still. Also, they often spoke without the appropriate
facial expressions. While they were usually quite lucid, there was the
undeniable feeling that something was 'off'. One of them, aware of the
way he spoke, tried to consciously make the proper facial expressions.
The effect was worse; the timing was slightly off and the expressions
did not happen at the right speed. Do we have synthetic 'twitch muscles'
that are fast enough and strong enough to do realistic facial expression?
Are there any videos of these androids in action?
If you follow the Repliee Q2 link in the story there are links to
several MPEG videos at the bottom of the page.
There are other pages on the site describing the use of sinusoidal waves
to generate human like motion when making gestures. They claim the head
contains 42 actuators used to produce "humanlike imperfections" of
motion such as blinking and facial twitches.
Even so, they say the illusion that it's human only holds for a few
seconds. If you observe it longer than that, it becomes obvious it's a